Egyptian hunger strikers rally in support of ‘forcibly disappeared’ lawyer
Egyptian NGOs claim that there were 215 cases of “enforced disappearance” in September and August. (AFP/File)
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Dozens of people went on hunger strike Tuesday for one day in solidarity with Maha Mekkawy, a leading member of al-Dostour party whose husband, Ashraf Shehata, has been “forcibly disappeared” since Jan. 13, 2014.
Mekkawy has been on a hunger strike since October 24 demanding to know the whereabouts of her husband who has been missing for one year and ten months.
"We received confirmation that he has been detained by Homeland Security but the Interior ministry denied," Mekkawy told Aswat Masriya.
Mekkawy added that the aim of enforced disappearances is to contain the public.
"When a regime is fragile, it uses violence and repression with people, which is expected in light of the situation we are living in now," she said.
At time of publication 104 people had declared solidarity with Mekkawy and went on hunger strike.
El Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence along with other eight rights groups including the Hisham Mubarak law Center, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) launched a week long campaign on Monday calling on authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of those who have been forcibly disappeared.
In a statement, El Nadeem center held the Interior Ministry “fully responsible for their safety and their lives”.
The statement also noted that the phenomenon of “enforced disappearance” has been on the rise since the protests of June 30, 2013, after which the military ousted then Islamist president Mohamed Mursi. Mursi himself was held incommunicado for over three months before he appeared in court in November 2013.
According to an October report by the center, 92 people have been forcibly disappeared, 58 others were subjected to torture and nine died in detention as a result of torture or medical negligence.
The Interior Ministry’s aide for Human Rights Salah Fouad denied in October the existence of any cases of involuntary or enforced disappearances. He further challenged those “ who promote such allegations" to prove them.
Fouad accused the Muslim Brotherhood group, who has been designated as terrorist organisation in December 2013, of waging a propaganda campaign to "exploit civil society organisations, whether international or domestic, by claiming that there are cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt in order to put pressure on the government and "restrict its ability to prosecute terrorists."
In a September statement, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information emphasized that “enforced disappearance” is a crime prohibited by Egyptian law as it denounced the disappearance of April 6 Youth Movement Leader Amr Ali.
According to the UN definition, "enforced disappearance" is a term that applies to "persons who are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials in different branches or levels of government... followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law."
The National Council for Human Rights - a government entity - released a report last June stating that there are 163 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt, 66 of which fit the definition of such disappearances in accordance with international standards, in addition to 64 cases of illegal detention and 31 cases where the authorities have failed to investigate related complaints.
The ECRF recorded a higher number, claiming that there were 215 cases of “enforced disappearance” in September and August.